The trial of Downtown Jackson Partners President Ben Allen will enter its second week tomorrow. Here are the updates on Friday's proceedings.
Othor Cain provided this report on Friday's courtroom drama on his Facebook page:
Robert L. Gibbs just said to Robert Smith...you are CONFUSED and I hope you're not confusing this jury.
Smith has asked five times in as many ways, how much Gibbs makes as DJPs attorney. And, five times Gibbs answered $1K a month!
Finally, Gibbs said, "no matter how you add it or calculate it, I don't get paid by the hour, I make $1K a month no matter how many hours nor how much work I do."
It is now time for The Battle of the Roberts! Smith begins cross examination of Gibbs.
Meanwhile, Jerry Mitchell provided these updates on Twitter
Not looking good for prosecution in
#BenAllenTrial. Wouldn't surprise me if the jury acquits Allen of all charges.
and in his Clarion-Ledger story:
The attorney for Downtown Jackson Partners testified Friday that he investigated the embezzlement charges in the indictment against the nonprofit’s president, Ben Allen, and found no reason to remove him.
The Partners board concluded that Allen “did not embezzle or convert to his own use” and committed no crime against the Partners, board attorney Robert L. Gibbs of Jackson testified.
The trial, which entered its fifth day Friday, resumes at 9 a.m. Monday in Hinds County Circuit Court.
The indictment against Allen says a 1988 Chevy Silverado became Allen’s three years after the Partners purchased it for $3,500 in 2007.
nder questioning by defense attorney Merrida Coxwell Jr., Gibbs testified the Partners knew Allen did this to save money on insurance.
As for a cellphone bill that Allen’s wife was included on, which was mentioned in the indictment, Gibbs said Allen reimbursed the Partners for that expense.
Gibbs said the board knew Allen was charging expenses for the Partners to his personal credit card and was reimbursed after submitting receipts.
The indictment lists $86,000 the Partners collected from a variety of businesses, including banks and law firms to help pay for Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber's Inauguration Gala in 2014. “Not a dime of Downtown Jackson Partners went to the gala,” Gibbs said.
He disputed the embezzlement allegation against Allen in the indictment related to the gala.
Allen didn’t get any of that money or any of the Partners’ sponsorships, Gibbs said.
Contributions to the gala were not political contributions, he said. “They were not made to a political candidate or a political party.”
Asked by District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith if the gala contributions were accounted for, Gibbs replied, “I know this money was accounted for.”
The indictment accuses Allen of directing $65,745 into a “fraudulent Business Incubator Program.”
The Venture Incubator, which the Partners supported, was a good one aimed at helping new businesses start, said Gibbs, who served on the Venture board.
The incubator failed because “we weren’t able to raise enough funds,” he said.
“Anything fraudulent about the incubator project?” Coxwell asked.
“No,” Gibbs replied.
In opening statements, Smith said that Allen had used Partners’ money to buy his son a Whirlpool refrigerator.
Gibbs said he found that allegation to be untrue. The defense has entered a receipt for Whirlpool parts that was identified as being used for a Partners' refrigerator.
In addition, Gibbs concluded the money collected by the nonprofit is private, not public.
Prosecutors claim Allen embezzled public funds while defense lawyers claim these are private funds and that Allen embezzled nothing.
“Is the money public in any way?” Coxwell asked.
“It is not,” replied Gibbs, sitting in the same courtroom where he once served as a circuit judge.
The Partners oversee the 66-block Business Improvement District, formed by those property owners through the Mississippi Legislature. The owners pay a “voluntary tax” to the Partners, based on square footage.
A lawyer for the state attorney general’s office concluded it was public money.
That conclusion allowed the state auditor’s office to investigate the Partners.
Gibbs, who once served as Mississippi's deputy attorney general, said he believes that opinion was wrong and that U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee was right in concluding the money collected for the Partners was an assessment, rather than a tax.
He said he researched attorney general’s office opinions, which he said concluded that even if a private entity received public money, that money becomes private.
Smith had Gibbs read from an audit firm’s report, which said there were “no controls in place” to control how much Allen spent and that the Partners was charged for expenses “without proper supporting documentation.”
The auditing firm is pointing out “deficiencies,” Gibbs said. “It’s not saying there’s anything wrong. … There is an invoice to match every check.”
Kingfish note: Methinks Melissa Patterson is not going to be looking too good when this trial is over regardless of the verdict.